Years ago, T blogged about her inability to leave our first flat in Scotland without a purse packed with what she considered necessities. Everything, down to food and bandages, was carefully packed away, to prevent what she saw as unnecessary limitations to our comfort and happiness everywhere. It took her a long time to trust our lives without a car, without knowing where all the stores were – it took her a long time to imagine that we didn’t need for her to carry everything for her comfort and safety on her back like a turtle. Thinking back on it, it was like she had lived through some kind of natural disaster — but the only disaster, really, was leaving the idea of “home.”
So, what does it mean that we are here in Iceland for a week with only one suitcase between the two of us? Other than that we forgot our toothbrushes, of course? It’s funny to think back to those anxious times, and compare them to how life finds us today — not any less mistrustful of the universe at large, at least in T’s case, but with a surprisingly clear idea of where home is — with each other. Though we’re less comfortable this trip abroad, we’re a little bit less concerned, if that makes any sense.
As the Viking ship indicates, we’re in Iceland at the moment, in pursuit of a work connection D had – one, an interview, the other, a beginning business meeting. One of the connections is very obviously not going to work out, so we’re waiting – still – and attempting to take this in the nature of a vacation — a little holiday from late summer into the land of winter (forty degree temps, of course, it what passes for late summer around here). We’re taking time to sit around on a blustery morning with coffee, doing pretty much nothing but stretching out on an unfamiliar couch with a book. Tomorrow we will bestir ourselves into the countryside with cameras and guide books, in search of waterfalls and “geysirs.” (Tomorrow, the wind may have dropped from 30 mph gusts!) But, for today, we are sitting, and looking thoughtfully at what has changed.
We first came to Iceland from our lives in Glasgow, and found this country, probably as many British people do, a reasonable exchange. Certainly there was more sunshine, more extremes in weather, more light. The Icelandic people we met remembered us, were happy to chat over coffee shop counters, telling us where to go, what to see. Comparing then to now – our last trip here in 2012 – it seems a vastly different place. Tourism caught fire here in 2014, and has increased about fifty percent each year since. It’s visible in many ways – the hordes of people wandering the streets, unmoored, snapping photographs of everything, even at six in the morning. (Courtesy of flights which arrive at 4 a.m. and nothing open until 9!) The begrimed buildings, sporting, instead of the quirky artistic graffiti murals, random tagging, and the weary people, serving too many guests to chat. We visited our favorite shops and then went away, a little troubled. Nowhere stays the same, of course, but the Iceland we enjoyed seems to be no longer enjoying itself.
We are not the same, either, of course. We’re older and trying harder to be more realistic about what we can and cannot truly do in the long term. While T can write anywhere, we’re trying to think where is easiest and best, in terms of productivity. While D can work anywhere, the business contacts he has here are best looked at long-distance. Using our most firmly critical and realistic gazes, we don’t see how living here would work out for the best. We’re having to be harder on our dreams and whimsies – obviously because that’s part of being boring old adults, but another reason is that at the end of our lives we don’t want to be left with just whimsy and wishful thinking. We left for Scotland on a whim, but we’re not going to leave the US again with quite so little preparation! We’re hopeful that doesn’t mean not leaving at all, but we’ll have to see how it goes. In the meantime, the kettle is calling on this dark and blustery day, and it’s time for another cuppa and maybe a movie, and then we’ll wrap up and head out into the lashing rain to see what society can be found. People visit California for the sun – we’re visiting Iceland and turning our faces up to the rain. It’s a strange puzzle of a world, isn’t it?